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Billy Taylor Trio: Urban Griot

Commissioned for the Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University, Dr. Billy Taylor’s Urban Griot is a storyteller’s work. Playing the role of an urban griot, Taylor, along with drummer Winard Harper and bassist Chip Jackson, tries to relate to us the history of jazz. Covering that much territory in 54 minutes is impossible, but Taylor does what he can with a well-played mix of dance numbers (“Local Color/Can You Dig It”), Cuban textures (“Gracias Chucho”), waltzes (“Reclamation”) and blues (“A Duke-ish Blues”).

I’ll be damned if Taylor isn’t hiding a third hand inside one of his suit sleeves. His playing on “Invention/Looking For Another Theme” makes me wonder what Leo Kottke would sound like on piano. Harper and Jackson provide solid rhythm throughout.

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